A Trick for the Best Rhubarb Scones
Aah, the enigmatic rhubarb still has me in its thrall. Just walking by the plants gets my mind going, thinking of things to make with those fat, vigorous stalks. At this point, it’s taking up so much room in the garden that I need to use it, just to give the kale and lettuce some sun!
The unique qualities of rhubarb are always a fun challenge. It’s really like a sour, juicy kind of celery, in a way. The sourness needs to be balanced with sweet, and the juiciness needs to be taken into consideration. A sour, watery baked good does nobody any favors.
So I have taken to using an old school technique, called “maceration.” It sounds more complicated that it is. All it means it that I toss the chopped rhubarb with sugar, and let it stand until the juices are released. There a chemical process going on in the sugar-plus-fruit or veg that causes the plant cells to break down and leak out their precious bodily fluids. It’s called osmosis, and the sugar acts to cause the “solvent” of juice to cross over the barrier of the cell walls. On the savory side, salt does the same thing.
All you need to know is that a handful of sugar will do the work of extracting the juice, all while making the fruit or vegetable firmer, and it will hold its shape better in baking. You just have to wait for it to work.
So, for these scones, I just tossed the rhubarb with the sugar for the recipe, and put it away in the refrigerator overnight. The next day, I strained the result, and had enough rhubarb syrup to sweeten the whole batch.
The ease of this simple trick delighted me, since I had just used no effort at all to create a flavorful sweetener, and tenderize the rhubarb in one step. For a tender, whole grain treat, I used heritage Red fife Wheat flour, which has a nutty quality, as well as the slightly lower gluten that makes for a more pastry-friendly flour. Chilled coconut oil was the perfect fat, with the mouthfeel of butter.
I did this on a hot day, so I did chill the scones for about five minutes to firm up the coconut oil before baking. I didn’t want a floppy, spread out scone. I like my scones with some weight to them. These were studded with a generous amount of rhubarb, too.
A quick shaping, a sprinkle of organic sugar, and 15 minutes in the oven, and I had scones. I love it when my backyard gives me such tasty gifts, at no cost to me. Fresh as they could be, my rhubarb stalks were a fantastic addition to my breakfast.
This makes a batch of six full-sized scones. You can always double it for a dozen, or cut the scones in smaller sizes. If you double, don’t double the salt, just do 3/4 teaspoon. If you make smaller scones, bake them for about 3 minutes less time and test them to see how done they are.
1 1/2 cups chopped rhubarb, 2 stalks
1/2 cup organic sugar, plus more for sprinkling
1 1/2 cups red fife flour
1/4 cup coarse cornmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup coconut oil, chilled after measuring
1 medium banana, mashed
The day before, combine the chopped rhubarb and sugar in a measuring cup or bowl, cover and let sit in the refrigerator overnight.
The day of baking, preheat the oven to 400 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment. Drain the rhubarb in a strainer set over a measuring cup or bowl. You should have 1/4 cup of syrup drain off the rhubarb. Reserve both the rhubarb and syrup.
In a large bowl, combine the flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt and stir to mix. Grate in the chilled coconut oil. Toss to coat the coconut oil shreds with flour. In a medium bowl, combine the mashed banana and rhubarb syrup. Quickly stir the banana mixture into the flour mixture to make a stiff dough. Just as it comes together, stir in the rhubarb slices. Mix and turn out onto a floured counter. Form into a disk about an inch thick.
Cut the disk into 6 wedges. Place on the sheet pan and sprinkle with sugar. Chill the pan if the dough is soft- on a hot day the coconut oil will melt. I put the pan in the freezer for about 5 minutes.
Bake for about 15 minutes, until golden brown. Let cool for 5 minutes before serving.